Idaho city claims no action against wedding chapel … unless complaint made

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez, |
Donald and Evelyn Knapp are in the middle of a firestorm pitting an Idaho state law protecting religious rights against a city ordinance granting gay rights.

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho (Christian Examiner) -- After a media firestorm erupted about a city ordinance that would require ordained ministers Donald and Evelyn Knapp to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies in their wedding chapel, city officials of Couer d'Alene made it a point in a statement published today to say no lawsuits have been filed against the couple.

"We have never threatened to jail them, or take legal action of any kind," city spokesman Keith Erickson told the Couer d'Alene Press. But, he added if a complaint is made the city will look into the matter and "take whatever action is necessary."

Last week, the Alliance for Defending Freedom, an Arizona-based, Christian legal ministry, filed a federal lawsuit in Idaho on behalf of the Knapps, who own a chapel, The Hitching Post, charging the use of the city ordinance against the couple would violate Idaho's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The suit comes after the couple, both in their 60's, declined the business of man who called their establishment to inquire about a same-sex wedding at their Hitching Post wedding chapel. At issue is a Couer d'Alene 2013 ordinance that requires them to perform same-sex weddings because they operate as a for-profit, limited liability corporation. By declining to perform the ceremony, the Knapps could face up to 180 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.

However, City Attorney Mike Gridley told the Press he learned the Knapps filed an LLC operating agreement with the state on Oct. 6, as a religious organization. Gridley said if the status has changed, the Knapps would be exempt from the city ordinance.